Postseason Grades: Brett Pill

The Postseason Grades series continues with a look at Brett Pill.

Brett Pill seems to be a AAAA slugger, inasmuch as those rare creatures actually exist. A career .301/.340/.511 hitter in over 1700 AAA plate appearances, Pill has never managed to break out during his 248 days on the big league rosters from 2011-2013. Looking a little more closely at Pill minor league record shows why he isn’t, and never really has been, a good candidate for greater playing time in San Francisco.

First, Pill’s four triple-A seasons happened during when he was age 25-28, a hitter’s physical peak. In general, a hitter will never be as good as he is when he is between the ages of 25 and 28. Second, the Pacific Coast League is an extreme hitters league. In 2010, the league had a .780 OPS; in 2013, it had a .756 OPS. In context, Pill’s .851 OPS during those years is not as impressive as it seems. In fact, Pill’s .340 AAA OBP is below the 2013 league .342 OBP. Third, a closer look at Pill’s stats reveal one huge hole in his game that has thus far been exploited in the majors: his batting eye. Although Pill has shown a propensity for avoiding the strikeout in the minors – career 12.9% K-rate, 11.4% K-rate in AAA – he also has shown an aversion to walks. In his minor league career, he has walked in only 5.8% of plate appearances, a rate that drops to 4.9% in AAA and 5.0% in the majors. From 2011-2013, according to the website, 62% of pitches Pill saw in AAA were in the strike zone. In the same time period, only 47% of pitches he saw in the majors were in the strike zone. While the percentage of pitches Pill swings at has stayed basically the same in the majors and minors (2011-2013: AAA Swing%, 50.9%; MLB Swing%, 51.9%), the percentage of pitches he sees in the strike zone has decreased by 15%.

A player without plate discipline is going to struggle in the major leagues. Yes, there are exceptions – there are always exceptions – but by and large a player has to be able to tell the difference between a ball and a strike. Pill is pretty good at making contact. His MLB career K-rate of 17% is decent, and his 77% contact rate is only a couple percentage points below the league average. If only he could hold off of a few more sliders, he could be a useful bench bat.

But Pill is 29 now. Baseball players are not known for making career-altering changes to their approach at age 29. In all likelihood, his time with the Giants is near an end. He was yo-yo’d around a bit in 2013 – he was called up from Fresno three separate times – and now he is out of options. Next year, the Giants must keep him on the active roster all year; if they want to demote him they have to put him through waivers first. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pill traded or waived outright next spring, or sooner.

Britt: C-

Reuben: C-

Nathan: C-

Overall: C-


Postseason Grades: The Incompletes

I’d like to introduce a new recurring series for the offseason here on Covefficient: postseason grades for each and every player that appeared in a game for the Giants this year. The plan is to do one post per player per day until we’ve made it through all 44 players who played for the Giants in 2013.

The exception, of course, is today. Five players had 10 or fewer plate appearances or 10 or fewer innings pitched. One of those players is getting his own post, the other four are summed up below.

Johnny Monell, Catcher: 9 PA, .125/.222/.125. Grade: Incomplete.

Monell made his major-league debut this September after hitting for a .858 OPS at AAA Fresno during the year. He appeared in 8 games, 7 as a pinch hitter and once as a catcher. In that one catching appearance, he came in in the seventh inning of what would be a 19-3 Giants win over the Dodgers. He logged his first ML hit in the eighth inning (Video). Monell has a sweet left-handed swing and has a decent amount of power, logging 49 extra-base hits with Fresno this year, including 20 home runs. He’s been in the organization for a long time – he was drafted in 2007 – and it’d be nice to see him back in 2014. If not, he’ll get picked up by another club, likely an AL team given his poor defensive reputation.

Cole Gillespie, Outfielder: 10 PA, .000/.100/.000. Grade: Incomplete.

Gillespie did basically nothing in 3 games with the Giants before being picked up off waivers by the Cubs on July 13. He was a classic minor-league veteran pickup that Sabean likes to make; he had an OPS over .850 the previous three years at AAA in the Diamonbacks system. Minor-league free agent pick-ups are one of Sabean’s specialties. Sometimes they turn into Gregor Blanco, sometimes they turn into…well, Cole Gillespie.

Ramon Ramirez, Relief Pitcher: 5.2 IP, 11.12 ERA, 9 H, 2 HR, 5 BB, 0 K. Grade: Incomplete.

Did you forget Ramirez pitched for the Giants this year? You aren’t alone. RamRam, a deadline day pickup in 2010 and part of the Torres-Pagan trade after 2011, threw 26 fairly good innings for Fresno before being called up in late May. He was terrible in six appearances before being released on June 18th, and he ended the year in the Rays system. Ramirez was pretty bad for the Mets last year, so his implosion this year was not altogether unexpected.

Eric Surkamp, Starting Pitcher: 2.2 IP, 23.63 ERA, 9 H, 7 R, 0 BB, 0 K. Grade: Incomplete.

I’ll close with the player most likely to have a significant role with the Giants next season. Surkamp threw 26.2 innings for the Giants in 2011 and was expected to compete for a roster spot in spring training prior to the 2012 season. Instead, he sat out until July with forearm/elbow issues before deciding to undergo Tommy John surgery at the end of July. After a remarkably fast recovery, he made 5 starts with San Jose, then made four starts for Fresno before being called up to make a start less than a year after his surgery. I could write an entire post about why that was a poor decision, but what’s done is done. Surkamp got shelled and sent back to Fresno. His Fresno stats after his demotion are quite encouraging: 7 starts, 50.2 IP, 1.95 ERA, 38 K, 11 BB. Depending on what the team does in the free agent market, Surkamp could find himself competing for the fifth-starter job next spring with the likes of Mike Kickham and Ryan Vogelsong. He doesn’t throw heat, but he’s shown the ability to get guys out in the minors using deception and a plus curveball, and he could get the opportunity to show those skills in the majors next season.

Edwin Escobar the All-Star

For San Jose Giants lefty Edwin Escobar, the chance to represent the team as they host the annual California-Carolina League All-Star Game was a good feeling for him.

“It’s a blessing for me,” Escobar said.

The Giants, coming off a series split in Visalia, where they clinched the first half division championship, are ensured a spot in the California League playoffs this September.

“I feel like we deserve that,” Escobar said. “We came here every day working hard trying to do the best we can competing for the championship.”

Escobar said that the team has been working hard in the first half and hopes that it transposes to the second half.

“It’s a good feeling,” Escobar said. “We’ve got a great team, a good family team. We compete, we’re working hard. I feel pretty good representing this team.”

With the All-Star Break in its tail end and the second half about to start, the Giants are regaining their energy by resting before the next series.

“I think we’re gonna do the best we can,” Escobar said.

Post-game Recap: Another One For The Oddity Books.

A Pat Burrell triple.

An Eli Whiteside triple.

An Aaron Rowand-Miguel Tejada-Eli Whiteside relay to throw a runner out at home.

A win for Madison Bumgarner.

Wait. Are we sure we’re in the right universe here?!

Madison Bumgarner also gave up two home runs. Well, okay, that’s not the norm for him, but there’s something bringing us down to reality a bit.

This game just rolled along with the Twilight ‘Zona theme and took advantage of the unusual plays. And of course they did, considering the fact that the Giants mustered enough offense to score more than one run.

Giants are now 2.5 games up in first place and are guaranteed to leave Arizona with the lead in the NL West.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Giants vs. Nationals Preview

This is a guest post written by Keara Dowd. Keara is the senior Washington Nationals reporter for Aerys Sports. You can find her posts at Win for Teddy.

Record: 26-33

Place in Division: 5th

Streak: won 1

Previous Series: Diamond Backs

Scheduled Starter: John Lannan, 3-5 4.05 ERA


The Nats are coming off their weirdest game of the season, a wild affair that saw it’s fair share of hit batters and ejections.  It ended with a Michael Morse grand slam in the 11th inning for the Nats to even their series with the Diamondbacks and take a 9-4 win.

With star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman still on the DL, Jayson Werth has really stepped up at the plate.  He had another impressive game yesterday with a sacrifice fly and a great catch by the warning track.  Zimmerman made his first rehab start with the Hagerstown Suns yesterday and hit a double, a triple, and took a walk with an RBI in three plate appearances.

Youngsters Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos have helped carry the team through their more difficult times.  Ramos hit a 3 run homer last night to put the Nats up 4-0, and Espinosa kept his cool despite being hit twice by two separate pitchers.  He continues to be one of the Nationals’ best defensive assets.

Closer Drew Storen has had a rough time as of late.  After going 9-for-9 in save opportunities and pitching 21 straight scoreless innings, he has struggled on the mound.  His most recent troubles were last night when he was responsible for all three runs the Diamondbacks score in the bottom of the ninth to push the game into extra innings.

Through injuries to key players like Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, the Nats are fighting to keep a chance in the always-tight NL East division.  A few wins in San Francisco would go a long way to helping that in the second meeting of these teams this season.


O Romo, Romo, Wherefore Art Thou, Romo?

One batter faced.

That’s all Sergio Romo did on the mound last night: face one batter. Didn’t get an out, but gave up a hit. Once that happened, Bruce Bochy took him out of the game.

One. batter. faced.

What’s this man got to do to get some innings?

Better yet, what does Romo have to do to get into a game?

Continue reading

Post-game Recap: What In The World Was That?

Up, down, up, down, INJURIES, up, down, GAME OVER.

At least, that’s how it felt like.

Mark DeRosa injured his wrist during an at-bat in the fourth inning, before even checking his swing. That’s not a good sign. Aaron Rowand injured in the top of the 9th. Brian Wilson appeared to be injured in the bottom of the 9th.

The cries of “MAKE THIS GAME END” could be heard in the Bay.

It was that kind of game.

A win is nice, of course. The Giants are back in first place with this win. It’s just rather bittersweet with the injuries.

Huff To 3B?

Several folks in the comments section and elsewhere have proposed moving Aubrey Huff to third base, at least until Pablo Sandoval is ready to return in a month or so. I’ve made a few inquiries, and yes, the Giants have discussed this possibility also. They didn’t pursue it earlier — mostly because I think they know Huff wouldn’t be a pretty sight at third base, where he hasn’t played since 2008.

But those at-bats in the lower third of the order aren’t looking pretty, either. In fact, they’re getting uglier by the day. The Giants have scored the fewest runs in the NL.

No surprise: As I understand it, the Huff-to-third proposition is being revisited.

(Extra Baggs)

Say it with me now: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The left side of the infield is weak as it is with Miguel Tejada playing shortstop. Put Huff there and all the routine plays hit to that side will end up being base hits. That’s an exaggeration–maybe–but it’s not going to be a pretty sight.

The options for third base and shortstop are thin in the organization. Mark DeRosa? I hear that tendon going “flop flop flop.” Mike Fontenot? Honestly, does anyone see him as a starter? Miguel Tejada–that’s just hard to type down without wanting to just keyboard smash.

Down in the farm system–namely AAA Fresno, you’ve got Ryan Rohlinger and Conor Gillaspie. Rohlinger’s been up in the majors before, but it’s been a small sample size. Conor Gillaspie, also having SSS major league stats, can play third base. But, he is broken.

There are no options as low as AAA. Left infield AA Richmond options? Nick Noonan, Sharlon Schoop, Jose Flores. Yeah, I thought that, too.

Go on, curse the baseball powers that be for thin 3B/SS depth. You now get to deal with Huff to third base rumors.

We’re crying on the inside, too.

Say Hey. (Say Who?) Say Willie. That Giants Kid Is Great.

My summer as a young adult before going off to college was highlighted by a soundtrack that includes John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” and the Treniers’ “Say Hey (Willie Mays song).” I spent an hour before home games at Chukchansi Park listening to those songs while I waited in line for the gates to open. In the sweltering Fresno heat, I was happy because I was going to see some baseball being played. And with it being my first season going to so many games — especially minor league games — I was ecstatic.

I was always reminded of the Giants legend on various trips to the park. If I see the number 24, automatically, I think Willie. If I see a basket catch, I tend to try to compare it to The Catch — I can’t compare the throw, though. That’s his alone and incomparable in my opinion. I remember dancing by the box office at the Chuk and singing “Say Hey” while waiting for the gates to open. It’s a ridiculous sight, I assure you.

I’m half a year to 20. I never got the amazing chance to see Willie play. I’d heard all the stories about him playing at the Polo Grounds, then Candlestick. But then you hear what he had to say about the Giants winning it all in 2010 and you can’t help but tear up. I know I did.

“Oh, man, I don’t get overly excited about baseball, but looking at these kids and how excited they were, I had some tears in my eyes,” Willie Mays said from his Peninsula home shortly after the Giants won the World Series on Monday night, “because you never know, this might be the last time something like this happens to some of these kids. It’s a wonderful feeling for me, and I’m sure it’s a wonderful feeling for these kids and their families.”

(San Francisco Chronicle)

He never got to win a ring with the team after making the move from New York to San Francisco. But his presence has never left the team. Seeing him at the parade, going down the parade route and being part of the overall celebration, you just can’t help but think that he’s part of the win.

And rightfully so.

Say hey, Willie. It’s your 80th birthday. Have a great one!

Pablo Sandoval Injured

Many tweets are reporting that manager Bruce Bochy informed Jon Miller that Pablo Sandoval has a hamate bone injury in his hand. This is something that often requires surgery, according to Andrew Baggarly.

No reports as to how long he’ll be out. Infielder Ryan Rohlinger has been called up from Triple-A Fresno in the meantime.

UPDATE: Hank Schulman tweets that Sandoval will be out for at least 4-6 weeks.